Kim Caramele is talking me through the shelf that houses her most prized possessions. There’s the Emmy and the Peabody that she won for her work as a writer and producer on Inside Amy Schumer, the hit Comedy Central sketch show that bears the name of her older sister.
And next to those trophies: a tiny wind-up figurine of an obese meerkat that poops. Caramele, who lives in Chicago with her husband and their three-legged dog when she’s not working with Schumer on the show, can barely contain her laughter—or even, really, her pride—when she talks about the figurine.
After all, that pooping meerkat represents one of the most meaningful moments in her career. She (Dumpy the Frumpy Meerkat is a lady) played a starring role in the first sketch Caramele ever wrote when she joined, at Schumer’s request, the writing staff of Inside Amy Schumer for the show’s second season.
The sketch’s premise: Amy is offered a voice-over gig in an animated movie described as Charlie’s Angels, but with meerkats. To Amy’s delight, Jessica Alba and Megan Fox complete the trio. But she’s horrified when she finally sees her character: Dumpy’s vagina is exposed because she doesn’t wear pants, she can’t control her bowels, and she says just one word: “Worms!”
Schumer was on a stand-up tour when the show’s second season was about to debut, and would show the meerkat sketch to the audience during the set. “Hearing people laugh when they first saw that fucking meerkat come out, I was just hysterically crying,” Caramele says. “Amy was standing in the back of the theater watching it with me. She put her arms around me and was like, ‘See? I fucking told you.’ It was a big ‘oh shit’ moment for me.”
A round of told-ya-so would never be unusual between siblings. But for Caramele and Schumer, and at that moment, it was less a taunt than a symbol of mutual vindication. It meant that a monumental and risky life decision that the sisters had made together—and for each other—had actually, and unequivocally, paid off.
Caramele is, in some ways, known by a certain group of people for being Amy Schumer’s sister.
Schumer often walks red carpets with her, and always—always—tearfully thanks her in speeches. She’s a constant figure on her sister’s Instagram, usually labeled with the hashtag #roadmanager, and came onto Schumer fans’ radars in a major way when Brie Larson played a fictionalized version of her in Trainwreck, which borrowed from the sisters’ own lives and relationship.
What she’ll soon be known as, however, is one of Hollywood’s most exciting comedy writers.
In addition to writing, producing, and occasionally acting on Inside Amy Schumer—which launches Season 4 on Comedy Central on Thursday—Caramele helped write and was an associate producer on Trainwreck. She co-wrote that buzzy script with Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence, and is executive producing a mother-daughter comedy with Schumer that starts shooting in Hawaii next month.
The mom in that movie? Oh, just Goldie Hawn, who is returning to the big screen for the first time since 2002 to star in it.
On her own, without the involvement of her sister, she also has two film scripts that are in development and boasts a solo development deal with HBO. Kim Caramele could be the next… well, the next Amy Schumer.
“She’s a dick,” Schumer deadpans when I call her to talk about her sister. “Please, make that the headline.” She then erupts into laughter and starts the story of why she decided that asking Caramele to work with her on Inside Amy Schumer wasn’t something that she just wanted to do, but needed to do.
When Comedy Central ordered a sketch series from rising comedy star Amy Schumer in 2011, Caramele, despite being the youngest of the Schumer siblings (which also includes jazz musician brother Jason) also happened to the most grown up, at least on paper.
She had married the guy she began dating her freshman year of college, and the two were living together in Chicago. She had been working as a school psychologist for a few years, and had just taken a new job in a different school district when Schumer called her to ask if she would move to New York for three months to help her write the first season of Inside Amy Schumer.
Caramele, who had no grand dreams of being a writer but often helped Schumer with her stand-up material, was worried about taking leave from a job she just started, and declined. As a concession, she said that if the show happened to be a hit and happened to get a Season 2, she’d consider heading to New York for that.
“Isn’t that such a ‘Who the fuck do you think you are?’ thing to say?” Caramele laughs. When Season 2 did get picked up, Schumer called her right away. “She was like, ‘Guess what, bitch?’ I was like, ‘Alright.’”
But right before it was time for Caramele to leave her husband and dog for three months and move to the New York apartment Schumer, by her own admission, “freaked out.”
“I remember being in some airport balling, hysterically crying on the phone with her that I was so scared that I was going to fuck up her life in some way,” Schumer says. “I wasn’t totally sure she could do it. What if I’m fucking with her life and it causes any problems in her marriage or she doesn’t like writing or she doesn’t succeed?”
It all sounds like a crazy gamble—Caramele was forced to resign from her job to do this—but the sisters were remarkably self-aware about the entire leap: how it would affect their lives. The pressure to succeed. Even the intimidation factor, and the nepotism clearly at play.
“I just felt like this weak younger sibling being toted around,” Caramele says. “I felt immediately guilty for even being there. Everybody was nice and welcoming, and I felt deeply like I hadn’t earned it. Because I hadn’t. I was absolutely there because I was Amy’s sister.”
But by the end of the first year, Caramele earned the nickname “The Closer” because of her ability to perfectly craft the last line in a scene.
In fact, she proved so valuable that when she finished writing for Season 2, she was asked to stay on set and work as a producer. The same thing happened with Trainwreck: She started out just helping Schumer write, but Judd Apatow quickly noted her value and asked her to stay and produce.
Slowly, Caramele started to feel like she’d earned her place—and, more importantly, earned the laughs she was getting. “Nobody was self-preserving in their career enough to feel like they had to laugh because I was Amy’s sister.”
The pressure she internalized the most, however, stemmed from the fact that her sister was vouching for her.
“I didn’t want to put her in a position where she would have to feel bad about firing me,” Caramele says. “Or having a conversation with the other executive producers about, ‘Hey, Kim’s nice, but get her the fuck out of here.’”
In reality, working together has made the sisters closer. Caramele is meeting up with Schumer on tour this weekend to punch up the script “and I can’t fucking wait,” Schumer says. “We’ve had tough lives. So we really needed each other. Maybe after my book or something that will make more sense to people.”
The siblings grew up on Long Island. When Schumer was 12 and Caramele was 8, their father was diagnosed with MS and was moved to an assisted living facility. His company went bankrupt, and the family was forced to downsize. Soon after, their parents divorced.
For so long, the sisters have been each other’s lifelines, be it hardship growing up or more recently, when Schumer was thrust into headlines, devastated, when a shooting killed two people during a screening of Trainwreck.
In fact, Caramele attributes Schumer’s insistence that she walk all red carpets with her—even the recent Golden Globes, during which nominee Schumer had a boyfriend—to a lifetime of Schumer wanting her sister to be by her side, even back in high school when Schumer was the cool senior 3½ years older than Caramele.
“It was never, ‘Sorry guys, my sister’s here,’” Caramele remembers. “No, it was fucking, ‘Here’s Kim, fucking be nice to her.’ It’s always been like that. It doesn’t feel any different now when we’re on a red carpet together and she’s like, ‘You’re doing this interview with me.’”
Because people know only a few biographical details about Caramele—chiefly that she’s married and settled down with her husband—and because Trainwreck applied that titular adjective to the “Amy” character, people often have the assumption that Caramele and Schumer fall on opposite ends of that spectrum.
Superficially, sure, Caramele agrees.
“I got married because I happened to meet my best friend and fall in love pretty young,” she says. “But I never thought I was going to get married. Amy and I grew up very similar in that having a husband isn’t anything we ever dreamed of or played at as kids. That just happened to be how it worked out for me.”
There’s a scene in Trainwreck where Amy apologizes to Kim for a fight they had. Amy had criticized Kim’s life choices, for settling. The anger stemmed from Amy thinking she can’t have that life herself.
“I think that [scene] comes from some part of myself for sure,” Schumer says. “We grew so close our whole lives. So there is a little bit of a feeling of abandonment when she found someone and was like, ‘I want to share my life with you.’ I was like, ‘I thought we were sharing our lives with each other.’ This is real subconscious shit, you know?
“That is the part of the movie that I’d say is the deepest revelation I had for us,” she continues. But as for the idea that their temperaments are yin and yang as far as who’s wilder goes? “It’s nothing like our relationship. She’s even sillier and darker than me. And we hang out hard.”
Caramele is mortified any time Schumer wants to talk candidly about her sex life. But personal things are otherwise all fair game. Caramele likes to shock people by casually mentioning something dark about her life in a small-talk setting, just to see how others react.
On the last season of Inside Amy Schumer she fought passionately for a joke in the sketch “Museum of Boyfriend Wardrobe Atrocities,” where the little girl at the end would walk away from the pile of Crocs at the end of the exhibit and yell, “Goodbye shoes,” calling on the “Goodbye Jews” line from Schindler’s List. The pitch got a firm no from the rest of the room.
“Where Amy really likes to spend time and unpack a lot of things, I use comedy more like Chinese throwing stars,” Caramele says.
It’s certainly getting her attention—and attention on her own.
“I used to always think, ‘Oh, I got this job because I’m Amy’s sister.’ But I’m starting to learn that studios don’t want to throw money away for the sake of appeasing somebody. And maybe people think they can make money with me and that’s why I’m being hired.”
She had the grand realization when she was hired to write a Ford commercial that Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon was starring in. She was on set when news broke that she was writing the mother-daughter movie with Schumer. “People were like, ‘Oh, you’re Amy Schumer’s sister?’” Caramele remembers. “They didn’t know that I was. That kind of blew my fucking mind.”
What is it like, then, to have a conversation about her career—her very exciting, very busy career—circle around the awkward idea that she’s stepping out from her sister’s shadow, when she’s been successful in her own right?
“I don’t look at it as a shadow at all,” she says. “I think a shadow denotes some negativity. Really every experience I’ve had working with Amy has been really positive.”
And what is it like for Schumer, the person who insisted that her sister come to New York to try comedy writing and, after being initially nervous that she could be blowing up her life is, barely more than two years later, seeing her back out on her own?
“Nope,” Schumer laughs. “I want her to feel like she needs me and I want to keep her in a little tower and she’d have to climb in and out by my hair—that’s how much she needs me.”
Kidding aside, Schumer says she worried for Caramele more than anything. She’s so busy—“she has more work to do than me,” Schumer says. “She loves writing and we love writing together and it’s really fun,” Schumer says. “There’s no dependence on me. But there hasn’t been for a long time.”
Then Schumer pauses.
“And I would actually like to get a lot of money back from her,” she continues, laughing. “I’m like, ‘Hey, remember when I bought you an Invisalign?’ Actually, I like paid her student loans. I did a lot of stuff, and now she’s got a lot of money and I want it back. Can we change this article to be about her giving me back my money?”